New York Mets: Fernando Martinez and the 10 Biggest All-Time Prospect Busts
Despite the large payroll they have usually had, the Mets have been known to make big mistakes in drafting players that are overrated and signing veteran players that are past their prime and turn into expensive and injury plagued disasters.
As a result, this is what has separated them from the crosstown Yankees over the years. The Yankees have generally made better moves and have gotten better results than players that the Mets have developed or signed as free agents.
The Mets recently waived one-time top prospect outfielder Fernando Martinez. Martinez, up to this point, has only experienced a few cups of coffee in the big leagues and has been plagued with various injuries during the past three seasons. At just 23 years old, Martinez still has a potentially bright future, but the Mets organization gave up on him and put him on waivers. He was claimed by the Astros shortly afterward.
Martinez is not the only prospect the Mets have had not work out. Over the past 25 years, the Mets have experienced many similar and worse cases than that of Martinez. Here are the 10 worst all-time prospect busts in Mets history.
10. Jason Isringhausen
The most successful player in this group by far is Jason Isringhausen.
Although he later became a dominant closer for a while, Isringhausen was originally a major starting pitching prospect for the Mets in the 1990s. He was one third of the Generation K triumvirate that included Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson.
Like the other members, Isringhausen had a brief run in the Mets rotation before injuries derailed his career and eventually ended his time as a Met.
Isringhausen made his professional debut on July 17, 1995, and went 9-2 that season with a 2.81 ERA. By then, he had become one of the top pitchers in a young starting rotation. However, Isringhausen was not the same pitcher in 1996. He went 6-14 that year with a 4.77 ERA, but missed almost a month in August with a strained ribcage. This was the beginning of the ending for Isringhausen as a Met.
Isringhausen ended up missing the majority of the 1997 season with a broken wrist and tuberculosis. He suffered the broken wrist from punching a garbage can in the dugout. He then missed the entire 1998 season while recovering from elbow surgery.
Isringhausen finally became healthy again in 1999, but got moved to the bullpen after just five starts and had an inconsistent season with a 1-3 record and a 6.41 ERA before getting traded to the A's at the trade deadline in the failed deal for Billy Taylor, who did next to nothing for the Mets in his very brief stay.
After the trade, Isringhausen developed into a solid closer and really blossomed as a member of the Cardinals, whom he spent most of the 2000s with.
Isringhausen returned to the Mets in 2011 as a setup man. He notched his 300th career save that year as well.
9. Jason Tyner
Jason Tyner, a former first-round draft pick for the Mets, ended up having a very brief major league stay with the team.
He was the 21st overall pick in the 1998 draft and made his big league debut on June 5, 2000. However, his major league stay only lasted the rest of the month as he batted .195 in 13 games. He got sent back to the minor leagues and eventually got traded to the Rays at the trade deadline.
After the trade, Tyner had a decent season in 2001 when he stole 31 bases.
However, due to his relatively low average and lack of power, Tyner got reduced playing time in 2002, lost a job in the major leagues in 2003 and has become a minor league journeyman ever since. He had a few short major league stints with the Twins from 2005-2007 and spent some time with the Indians in 2008. His last major league appearance was in May of 2008.
8. Alex Ochoa
One of the Mets' biggest offensive prospects in the mid-1990s was Alex Ochoa.
Ochoa originally got drafted by the Orioles, who selected him the third round of the 1991 draft. However, he never made a major league appearance with the Orioles as he got traded with Damon Buford to the Mets for Bobby Bonilla and Jimmy Williams. The Mets conducted this trade to unload Bonilla, who had become a liability for the team by then. However, they only made this trade once they were able to obtain Ochoa.
A few years later, the Mets probably wished that they did not make such a big effort.
Ochoa made his major league debut during his September call-up in 1995. He batted .297 in 37 at-bats before making the major league team in 1996. Ochoa was projected to be a five-tool prospect, but he never developed into a great hitter. He batted .294 with just four home runs and 33 RBI that year. He was mostly on the bench due to the more productive offensive presence of Butch Huskey in right field.
However, he quickly became known for the strong arm he had in throwing out runners. His lone notable highlight of the season was his first career hit for the cycle, which occurred in July.
In 1997, Ochoa's offensive numbers were even worse. He batted just .244 with three home runs and 22 RBI. He played mostly as a late-inning defensive replacement for Huskey. After the 1997 season, Ochoa got traded to the Twins for another failed outfielder in Rich Becker.
This would become a familar trend for Ochoa, who got traded seven times in his career. He spent two short stints with the Brewers, plus short stints with the Twins, Reds, Rockies and Angels. He also spent some time in Japan.
Ochoa is now on the Red Sox coaching staff alongside former Mets manager Bobby Valentine.
7. Alex Escobar
Another top prospect in the 1990s that ended up becoming a bust was Alex Escobar. Escobar was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 1995 and made his professional debut in 2001.
Escobar shifted between the major leagues and minor leagues that year and only appeared in 18 games as a Met. He batted .200 with three home runs and eight RBI, including a two-home run game in the third to last game of the 2001 season.
In the following offseason, Escobar got traded to the Indians in the blockbuster trade that brought Roberto Alomar to the Mets.
While Alomar's time with the Mets is not remembered fondly, Escobar did not exactly turn into a stud player himself. He missed the entire 2002 season due to injuries and played in small portions of the 2003 and 2004 seasons before moving onto the Nationals. His last major league appearance was with the Nationals in 2006.
6. Fernando Martinez
The aforementioned Fernando Martinez was one of the Mets' biggest prospect within the past five years and although he is still young, he has not lived up to his hype at all.
Martinez signed with the Mets in July of 2005 and made his major league debut in 2009. However, in 91 at-bats, he batted only .191 with one home run and eight RBI. His season ended in July due to inflammation in his right knee.
Martinez then barely spent any time with the Mets in 2010 and only appeared in seven games that year. He appeared in just 11 games in 2011 and raised his average to .227 with one home run and two RBI.
Due to Martinez's history of injuries and lack of major league production, the Mets decided to place him on waivers and he was recently claimed by the Astros. Time will tell whether the Mets should have kept him or not, but at the moment, Martinez would have unlikely had a starting spot in the Mets outfield.
5. Ryan Thompson
Another failed Mets outfield prospect was Ryan Thompson, who was considered a top prospect once the Mets traded David Cone to the Blue Jays for him and Jeff Kent.
While Kent obviously turned out to be the much better player and one of the greatest second basemen of his time, the Mets really wanted Thompson to be part of their outfield. However, Thompson did not live up to his billing.
He batted .222 with three home runs and ten RBI in 1992, .250 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI in 1993, .225 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI in 1994 and .251 with seven home runs and 31 RBI in 1995. These were not numbers that a projected five tool outfielder is supposed to put up.
After the 1995 season, the Mets traded for Bernard Gilkey and signed Lance Johnson, which put an end to Thompson's time with the Mets. He got traded to the Indians right before the 1996 Opening Day for Mark Clark. He also spent some time with the Astros, Yankees, Marlins and Brewers before retiring after the 2002 season. He is well known as the batter whose batted ball struck Bryce Florie in the head back in 2000.
4. Lastings Milledge
Yet another failed Mets outfield prospect was Lastings Milledge, who was the Mets' first-round pick in 2003 but did not really pan out as a major league player.
Milledge made his Mets debut in 2006 and batted .241 with four home runs and 22 RBI. In June, after hitting a game-tying home run, Milledge gave high-fives to fans as he went back into the field during the following inning, which annoyed his teammates.
In 2007, Milledge raised his average to .272 and finished with seven home runs and 29 RBI. Milledge may have improved as a player, but he made news by appearing in a rap song and using certain foul words, which was not viewed highly by the Mets' front office.
This rap song definitely helped Milledge get himself traded to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider in the following offseason.
Milledge played with the Nationals in 2008 and part of 2009 before getting traded to the Pirates in late June of that year. He spent the rest of 2009 and 2010 with the Pirates before spending most of the 2011 season in the minor leagues within the White Sox organization. He put up decent numbers (.268 average, 14 home runs, 61 RBI) in 2008, but did not hit well in both 2009 and 2010. Milledge has since signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in December of 2011.
3. Shawn Abner
Shawn Abner never played a major league game in a Mets uniform. He was the Mets' first-round draft pick and the first overall draft pick in 1984 before getting traded to the Padres following the 1986 season in the deal that brought Kevin McReynolds to the Mets.
Abner ended up playing five seasons for the Padres from 1987-1991. He also spent a bit of time with the Angels in the latter portion of the 1991 season and played with the White Sox in 1992, which ended up being his best season.
Abner injured his knee in the Royals' minor league system during the 1993 season. After that, he never made it back to the major leagues.
2. Bill Pulsipher
Another member of the doomed Generation K was Bill Pulsipher, the lone southpaw of the group.
Pulsipher was drafted by the Mets in the second round of the 1991 draft. He pitched very well in the minor leagues and made his major league debut in July of 1995. He went 5-7 with a 3.98 ERA as a Met that year before an elbow injury forced him to miss the last three weeks of the season.
This was just the beginning of Pulsipher's history of injuries.
At the end of spring training in 1996, Pulsipher still had pain in his elbow, and an MRI showed torn ligaments, which required Tommy John surgery. As a result, he missed the entire 1996 season. Pulsipher started the 1997 season in the minor leagues and had many control issues. After getting bumped down to Single-A, Pulsipher was later diagnosed with depression and once he started taking Prozac, his pitching improved.
In 1998, Pulsipher made it back to the major leagues for the first time in over two years. However, he only appeared in 15 games and had a 6.91 ERA, mostly in relief appearances. He got traded to the Brewers for Mike Kinkade at the trade deadline. Pulsipher underwent back surgery following the 1998 season and spent more time on the disabled list in 1999 due to the same back problems. He got traded back to the Mets before the 2000 season for Luis Lopez.
In 2000, Pulsipher pitched in just two games for the Mets, but gave up nine runs in just 6.2 innings and found himself traded again, but this time to the Diamondbacks for Lenny Harris.
After that, Pulsipher became a journeyman pitcher. He made brief major league appearances with the Red Sox and White Sox in 2001, but quit baseball for a while after getting released three times in a span of 14 months.
Pulsipher spent some time as a groundskeeper for the St. Lucie Mets, but signed a minor league contract with the Orioles for the 2003 season. He did not make the major leagues that year and spent 2004 as a member of the Long Island Ducks.
In 2005, former Mets teammate Jason Isringhausen, then the Cardinals closer, persuaded the Cardinals to take a chance on Pulsipher.
He made the Cardinals' major league roster out of spring training, but suffered a hamstring injury in April. He went on the disabled list, returned briefly and then got sent down to the minor leagues, which was where he remained for most of the season. Once he got released in September, he quickly rejoined the Ducks, whom he helped lead to the Atlantic League's championship game in 2006. He was the losing pitcher in the deciding game.
Pulsipher has most recently pitched for the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
1. Paul Wilson
The centerpiece of Generation K, Paul Wilson is by far the Mets' worst prospect bust of all time.
Wilson was chosen by the Mets as the first overall draft pick in the 1994 draft. He made his major league debut just two years later. However, 1996 would be the only season Wilson pitched as a Met.
While Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher were both considered top prospects in themselves, Wilson entered the 1996 season as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Thus, even more hype and pressure was placed on Wilson to lead the Mets back into a winning team.
Wilson unfortunately proved everyone wrong by going just 5-12 with a 5.38 ERA in 26 starts that year. He missed about a month with tendinitis in his shoulder, but did not pitch well overall when he was healthy.
In the following offseason, Wilson was found to have a tear in his right labrum, which required arthroscopic surgery. He missed the entire 1997 season while recovering from the surgery. He then missed the entire 1998 season due to an elbow injury. Out of 1999 spring training, Wilson did not make the major league club. However, soon enough, Wilson ended up needing elbow surgery yet again and missed all of the 1999 season as well.
Finally, in 2000, Wilson was healthy and pitched in the minor leagues before getting traded to the Devil Rays in the deal that brought Bubba Trammell and Rick White to the Mets. Wilson spent the rest of 2000, plus 2001 and 2002, with the Devil Rays before spending 2003-2005 with the Reds. He eventually got released by the Reds in early 2007 after attempting to return from shoulder surgery.
When a big-time prospect gets taken No. 1 overall in the draft and pitches just one less than decent season with the team, it's pretty obvious that such a player should be considered the worst prospect bust in that team's history.
Paul Wilson did just that for the Mets and did not contribute much at all after 1996. Thus, this is why he is the Mets' worst prospect bust of all time.